Updated: Feb 9
“Why was your favourite teacher, your favourite teacher?” The responses all had one thing in common - they cared.
If you think back to your time at secondary school, consider who your favourite teacher was. There is usually always one teacher that you still remember, and I am willing to bet the reason is linked to how they made you feel more than anything else. To test my theory, I did a straw poll and asked several staff members, “Why was your favourite teacher, your favourite teacher?” The responses all had one thing in common - they cared. Our staff remembered the teachers that treated them as individuals, those they felt ‘never gave up’ on them, no matter what. How inspirational would it be, to be that teacher to the students you teach?
What do you know about the students you teach?
It is easy to assume that if you know the name of your students, then you know the students. But, what do you really know about the students you teach? Do you know who your next budding artist is? Who is your next Dina Asher-Smith? Who wants to be a doctor when they are older? Who can play a musical instrument? Who are the Jack Petchey outstanding achievers? Our students have so many diverse hobbies, interests and achievements and it is important to recognise and celebrate these.
There will be members of staff around the school that will know something interesting about the students you teach. Make it a target to find out something you didn’t know about your students. You will be surprised at how much you can learn and the difference this will make to the students you teach and the relationship that you can build with them.
Building a positive rapport with students is important both inside and outside of the classroom.
Here are my top tips for building a positive rapport inside the classroom:
Learn your students' names - this lets your students know that you know them and allows a more personable approach.
Find out what they do outside of school or clubs within schools e.g. music, sport, drama. Can you utilise these interests in your lesson?
Praise effort and involvement in lessons - students love to be praised and it lets them know you appreciate their effort. Create an environment where it is okay to try and make mistakes.
Congratulate an excellent answer - let them know how good they are. This will develop a culture where trying is the 'cool thing' to do.
Create a calm, positive, learning environment - calmness is very important.
Have routines and consistency - without consistency it is very hard to build a positive rapport because students do not know where they stand.
Never bring into the lesson something negative from the previous lesson - there should always be a clean slate for all students to impress you!
Here are my top tips for building a positive rapport outside the classroom:
Say good morning/good afternoon to students when you see them.
Learn something about your students' interests, hobbies and aspirations - this shows that you care about them as a person. Take time to have a conversation at break or lunch. Once they know you are interested, you will be surprised at how much they will tell you and you will have a genuinely positive impact on their lives.
Make time for your students where possible - play a game of table tennis with them, help them with their homework, catch up with them.
Celebrate student success through effort, no matter how small - congratulate them on their football win, on their star of the week, on writing an amazing essay. This will show that you have a genuine interest in them and what they are doing.
Smile, have positive body language and have a sense of humour - be approachable, they will talk to you.
Ask them how their day is going - a little conversation will go a very long way. You will be surprised at how much they will tell you from such a simple question.
I conducted the same straw poll with several students at school. When asked the question, ‘Why is your favourite teacher, your favourite teacher?’ all our students picked up on the feeling that their teacher wanted the best for them, beyond school.
One student said, “They give me many ideas for my future and push me to be better both in and out of school.” For that student, it is clear that their favourite teacher has had a positive impact on their lives - and who would not want that?
In years to come, if asked this question, what would you want the students you encounter to say about you?
Have you tried something in the classroom that has worked well? We'd love to hear about it at Axle Education. Send your articles to firstname.lastname@example.org